By Stephanie Jones
One of the great things about living and working in Washington, D.C., is being in the heart of the action, such as watching President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address from the House gallery. Although I’ve have the good fortune to attend most of President Obama’s joint session speeches, as well as joint sessions under previous administrations, it never gets old.
Observing the pre-speech activities – watching the Members interaction, applauding the First Lady’s entrance, chatting with Members afterward and, of course, the electric moment when the House Sergeant-at-Arms calls out: “Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States!” and then watching the President enter chamber are all high points of these events.
But beyond the political theatre and pageantry, hearing the President’s message to Congress, in which he lays out the roadmap for his policies in the next year is always the most compelling part.
As a member of the AREVA Community Advisory Council, I am particularly interested in the Administration’s energy policy, so I leaned in when, halfway through his speech, the President turned his attention to this topic. It was very gratifying to hear him not only refer specifically to “America’s energy future,” but to offer up specific proposals to get us there.
The President praised the clean energy industry, saying it has “rarely been more profitable … never been more promising.” He acknowledged that today’s political climate makes it impossible to pass a comprehensive climate change plan, but called on Congress to begin taking steps to create a clean energy standard for innovation.
The President went on to announce a plan to develop clean energy on enough public land to power 3 million homes and revealed that the Navy would purchase enough capacity to power 250,000 homes a year – one of the largest federal commitments to clean energy in history. He also proposed to help incentivize manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and upgrade their buildings, noting that this will result in a less pollution, more jobs, increased manufacturing and a $100 billion reduction in energy costs over the next decade.
While the President did not specifically mention nuclear energy in his speech, his plan encompasses the energy mix of which nuclear is a key part. And the following day, the White House offered more details of the plan in “A Blueprint to Make the Most of America’s Energy Resources,” which noted that 80% of the nation’s electricity will come from clean sources, including renewable sources, such as nuclear, wind, solar and biomass.
Just as I carefully noted the President’s clean energy plans, I also paid close attention to how the Members of Congress responded to his proposals. Fortunately, I had a perfect seat both to watch the President and to scrutinize the reaction. While much of the reaction to the speech was partisan – with members of the President’s party applauding loudly while members of the opposition remained silent – Members of both parties reacted positively to some of the President’s clean energy proposals.
It was good to hear the President so clearly restate his commitment to clean energy and creating jobs in the clean energy industry. It was also encouraging to see the possibility for a bipartisan approach to clean energy.
This possibility may be a slight one; much will get lost in the noise and smoke of 2012 presidential and congressional politics. But let’s hope that the White House and Congress will rise above partisan politics and work together to ensure that clean energy is an integral part of America’s energy future.
During his speech, the President assured us that “I will not walk away from clean energy.” That’s a promise we should all help him keep.
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